Jamieson-Fausset-Brown Bible Commentary
And I, brethren, when I came to you, came not with excellency of speech or of wisdom, declaring unto you the testimony of God.
1Co 2:1-16. Paul's Subject of Preaching, Christ Crucified, Not in Worldly, but in Heavenly, Wisdom among the Perfect.
1. And I—"So I" [Conybeare] as one of the "foolish, weak, and despised" instruments employed by God (1Co 1:27, 28); "glorying in the Lord," not in man's wisdom (1Co 1:31). Compare 1Co 1:23, "We."
when I came—(Ac 18:1, &c.). Paul might, had he pleased, have used an ornate style, having studied secular learning at Tarsus of Cilicia, which Strabo preferred as a school of learning to Athens or Alexandria; here, doubtless, he read the Cilician Aratus' poems (which he quotes, Ac 17:28), and Epimenides (Tit 1:12), and Menander (1Co 15:33). Grecian intellectual development was an important element in preparing the way for the Gospel, but it failed to regenerate the world, showing that for this a superhuman power is needed. Hellenistic (Grecizing) Judaism at Tarsus and Alexandria was the connecting link between the schools of Athens and those of the Rabbis. No more fitting birthplace could there have been for the apostle of the Gentiles than Tarsus, free as it was from the warping influences of Rome, Alexandria, and Athens. He had at the same time Roman citizenship, which protected him from sudden violence. Again, he was reared in the Hebrew divine law at Jerusalem. Thus, as the three elements, Greek cultivation, Roman polity (Lu 2:1), and the divine law given to the Jews, combined just at Christ's time, to prepare the world for the Gospel, so the same three, by God's marvellous providence, met together in the apostle to the Gentiles [Conybeare and Howson].
testimony of God—"the testimony of Christ" (1Co 1:6); therefore Christ is God.
For I determined not to know any thing among you, save Jesus Christ, and him crucified.
2. The Greek implies, "The only definite thing that I made it my business to know among you, was to know Jesus Christ (His person) and Him crucified (His office)" [Alford], not exalted on the earthly throne of David, but executed as the vilest malefactor. The historical fact of Christ's crucifixion had probably been put less prominently forward by the seekers after human wisdom in the Corinthian church, to avoid offending learned heathens and Jews. Christ's person and Christ's office constitute the sum of the Gospel.
And I was with you in weakness, and in fear, and in much trembling.
3. I—the preacher: as 1Co 2:2 describes the subject, "Christ crucified," and 1Co 2:4 the mode of preaching: "my speech … not with enticing words," "but in demonstration of the Spirit."
weakness—personal and bodily (2Co 10:10; 12:7, 9; Ga 4:13).
trembling—(compare Php 2:12). Not personal fear, but a trembling anxiety to perform a duty; anxious conscientiousness, as proved by the contrast to "eye service" (Eph 6:5) [Conybeare and Howson].
And my speech and my preaching was not with enticing words of man's wisdom, but in demonstration of the Spirit and of power:
4. my speech—in private.
preaching—in public [Bengel]. Alford explains it, My discourse on doctrines, and my preaching or announcement of facts.
man's wisdom—man's is omitted in the oldest authorities. Still "wisdom" does refer to "man's" wisdom.
in demonstration of … Spirit, &c.—Persuasion is man's means of moving his fellow man. God's means is demonstration, leaving no doubt, and inspiring implicit faith, by the powerful working of the Spirit (then exhibited both outwardly by miracles, and inwardly by working on the heart, now in the latter and the more important way only, Mt 7:29; Ac 6:10; Heb 4:12; compare also Ro 15:19). The same simple power accompanies divine truth now, producing certain persuasion and conversion, when the Spirit demonstrates by it.
That your faith should not stand in the wisdom of men, but in the power of God.
5. stand in … wisdom of men—rest on it, owe its origin and continuance to it.
Howbeit we speak wisdom among them that are perfect: yet not the wisdom of this world, nor of the princes of this world, that come to nought:
6, 7. Yet the Gospel preaching, so far from being at variance with true "wisdom," is a wisdom infinitely higher than that of the wise of the world.
we speak—resuming "we" (preachers, I, Apollos, &c.) from "we preach" (1Co 1:28), only that here, "we speak" refers to something less public (compare 1Co 2:7, 13, "mystery … hidden") than "we preach," which is public. For "wisdom" here denotes not the whole of Christian doctrine, but its sublimer and deeper principles.
perfect—Those matured in Christian experience and knowledge alone can understand the true superiority of the Christian wisdom which Paul preached. Distinguished not only from worldly and natural men, but also from babes, who though "in Christ" retain much that is "carnal" (1Co 3:1, 2), and cannot therefore understand the deeper truths of Christianity (1Co 14:20; Php 3:15; Heb 5:14). Paul does not mean by the "mystery" or "hidden wisdom" (1Co 2:7) some hidden tradition distinct from the Gospel (like the Church of Rome's disciplina arcani and doctrine of reserve), but the unfolding of the treasures of knowledge, once hidden in God's counsels, but now announced to all, which would be intelligently comprehended in proportion as the hearer's inner life became perfectly transformed into the image of Christ. Compare instances of such "mysteries," that is, deeper Christian truths, not preached at Paul's first coming to Corinth, when he confined himself to the fundamental elements (1Co 2:2), but now spoken to the "perfect" (1Co 15:51; Ro 11:25; Eph 3:5, 6). "Perfect" is used not of absolute perfection, but relatively to "babes," or those less ripe in Christian growth (compare Php 3:12, 15, with 1Jo 2:12-14). "God" (1Co 2:7) is opposed to the world, the apostles to "the princes [great and learned men] of this world" (1Co 2:8; compare 1Co 1:20) [Bengel].
come to naught—nothingness (1Co 1:28). They are transient, not immortal. Therefore, their wisdom is not real [Bengel]. Rather, translate with Alford, "Which are being brought to naught," namely, by God's choosing the "things which are not (the weak and despised things of the Gospel), to bring to naught (the same verb as here) things that are" (1Co 1:28).
But we speak the wisdom of God in a mystery, even the hidden wisdom, which God ordained before the world unto our glory:
7. wisdom of God—emphatically contrasted with the wisdom of men and of this world (1Co 2:5, 6).
in a mystery—connected in construction with "we speak": We speak as dealing with a mystery; that is not something to be kept hidden, but what heretofore was so, but is now revealed. Whereas the pagan mysteries were revealed only to a chosen few, the Gospel mysteries were made known to all who would obey the truth. "If our Gospel be hid, it is hid to them that are lost" (2Co 4:3), "whom the God of this world hath blinded." Ordinarily we use "mystery" in reference to those from whom the knowledge is withheld; the apostles, in reference to those to whom it is revealed [Whately]. It is hidden before it is brought forward, and when it is brought forward it still remains hidden to those that are imperfect [Bengel].
ordained—literally, "foreordained" (compare 1Co 2:9), "prepared for them that love Him."
before the world—rather, "before the ages" (of time), that is, from eternity. This infinitely antedates worldly wisdom in antiquity. It was before not only the wisdom of the world, but eternally before the world itself and its ages.
to our glory—ours both now and hereafter, from "the Lord of glory" (1Co 2:8), who brings to naught "the princes of this world."
Which none of the princes of this world knew: for had they known it, they would not have crucified the Lord of glory.
8. Which—wisdom. The strongest proof of the natural man's destitution of heavenly wisdom.
crucified … Lord of glory—implying the inseparable connection of Christ's humanity and His divinity. The Lord of glory (which He had in His own right before the world was, Joh 17:4, 24) was crucified.
But as it is written, Eye hath not seen, nor ear heard, neither have entered into the heart of man, the things which God hath prepared for them that love him.
9. But—(it has happened) as it is written.
Eye hath not seen, &c.—Alford translates, "The things which eye saw not … the things which God prepared … to us God revealed through His Spirit." Thus, however, the "but" of 1Co 2:10 is ignored. Rather construe, as Estius, "('We speak,' supplied from 1Co 2:8), things which eye saw not (heretofore), … things which God prepared … But God revealed them to us," &c. The quotation is not a verbatim one, but an inspired exposition of the "wisdom" (1Co 2:6, from Isa 64:4). The exceptive words, "O God, beside (that is, except) Thee," are not quoted directly, but are virtually expressed in the exposition of them (1Co 2:10), "None but thou, O God, seest these mysteries, and God hath revealed them to us by His Spirit."
entered—literally, "come up into the heart." A Hebraism (compare, Jer 3:16, Margin). In Isa 64:4 it is "Prepared (literally, 'will do') for him that waiteth for Him"; here, "for them that love Him." For Isaiah spake to them who waited for Messiah's appearance as future; Paul, to them who love Him as having actually appeared (1Jo 4:19); compare 1Co 2:12, "the things that are freely given to us of God"
But God hath revealed them unto us by his Spirit: for the Spirit searcheth all things, yea, the deep things of God.
10. revealed … by … Spirit—The inspiration of thoughts (so far as truth essential to salvation is concerned) makes the Christian (1Co 3:16; 12:3; Mt 16:17; Joh 16:13; 1Jo 2:20, 27); that of words, the PROPHET (2Sa 23:1, 2; 1Ki 13:1, 5), "by the word of the Lord" (1Co 2:13; Joh 20:30, 31; 2Pe 1:21). The secrets of revelation are secret to some, not because those who know them will not reveal them (for indeed, the very notion of revelation implies an unveiling of what had been veiled), but because those to whom they are announced have not the will or power to comprehend them. Hence the Spirit-taught alone know these secrets (Ps 25:14; Pr 3:32; Joh 7:17; 15:15).
unto us—the "perfect" or fully matured in Christian experience (1Co 2:6). Intelligent men may understand the outline of doctrines; but without the Holy Spirit's revelation to the heart, these will be to them a mere outline—a skeleton, correct perhaps, but wanting life [Whatley, Cautions for the Times, 14], (Lu 10:21).
the Spirit searcheth—working in us and with our spirits (compare Ro 8:16, 26, 27). The Old Testament shows us God (the Father) for us. The Gospels, God (the Son) with us. The Acts and Epistles, God (the Holy Ghost) in us [Monod], (Ga 3:14).
deep things of God—(Ps 92:5). His divine nature, attributes, and counsels. The Spirit delights to explore the infinite depths of His own divine mind, and then reveal them to us, according as we are capable of understanding them (De 29:29). This proves the personality and Godhead of the Holy Ghost. Godhead cannot be separated from the Spirit of God, as manhood cannot be separated from the Spirit of man [Bengel].
For what man knoweth the things of a man, save the spirit of man which is in him? even so the things of God knoweth no man, but the Spirit of God.
11. what man, &c.—literally, "who of men knoweth the things of a man, save the spirit of that man?"
things of God knoweth no man—rather, "none knoweth," not angel or man. This proves the impossibility of any knowing the things of God, save by the Spirit of God (who alone knows them, since even in the case of man, so infinitely inferior in mind to God, none of his fellow men, but his own spirit alone knows the things hidden within him).
Now we have received, not the spirit of the world, but the spirit which is of God; that we might know the things that are freely given to us of God.
12. we … received, not … spirit of … world—the personal evil "spirit that now worketh in the children of disobedience" (Eph 2:2). This spirit is natural in the unregenerate, and needs not to be received.
Spirit which is of God—that is, which comes from God. We have received it only by the gift of God, whose Spirit it is, whereas our own spirit is the spirit that is in us men (1Co 2:11).
that we might know … things … freely given … of God—present experimental knowledge, to our unspeakable comfort, of His deep mysteries of wisdom, and of our future possession of the good "things which God hath prepared for them that love Him" (1Co 2:9).
Which things also we speak, not in the words which man's wisdom teacheth, but which the Holy Ghost teacheth; comparing spiritual things with spiritual.
13. also—We not only know by the Holy Ghost, but we also speak the "things freely given to us of God" (1Co 2:12).
which the Holy Ghost teacheth—The old manuscripts read "the Spirit" simply, without "Holy."
comparing spiritual things with spiritual—expounding the Spirit-inspired Old Testament Scripture, by comparison with the Gospel which Jesus by the same Spirit revealed [Grotius]; and conversely illustrating the Gospel mysteries by comparing them with the Old Testament types [Chrysostom]. So the Greek word is translated, "comparing" (2Co 10:12). Wahl (Key of the New Testament) translates, "explaining (as the Greek is translated, Ge 40:8, the Septuagint) to spiritual (that is, Spirit-taught) men, spiritual things (the things which we ourselves are taught by the Spirit)." Spirit-taught men alone can comprehend spiritual truths. This accords with 1Co 2:6, 9, 10, 14, 15; 1Co 3:1. Alford translates, "Putting together (combining) spirituals with spirituals"; that is, attaching spiritual words to spiritual things, which we should not do, if we were to use words of worldly wisdom to expound spiritual things (so 1Co 2:1, 4; 1Pe 4:11). Perhaps the generality of the neuters is designed to comprehend these several notions by implication. Comparing, or combining, spirituals with spirituals; implying both that spiritual things are only suited to spiritual persons (so "things" comprehended persons, 1Co 1:27), and also that spiritual truths can only be combined with spiritual (not worldly-wise) words; and lastly, spirituals of the Old and New Testaments can only be understood by mutual comparison or combination, not by combination with worldly "wisdom," or natural perceptions (1Co 1:21, 22; 2:1, 4-9; compare Ps 119:18).
But the natural man receiveth not the things of the Spirit of God: for they are foolishness unto him: neither can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned.
14. natural man—literally, "a man of animal soul." As contrasted with the spiritual man, he is governed by the animal soul, which overbears his spirit, which latter is without the Spirit of God (Jude 19). So the animal (English Version, "natural") body, or body led by the lower animal nature (including both the mere human fallen reason and heart), is contrasted with the Spirit-quickened body (1Co 15:44-46). The carnal man (the man led by bodily appetites, and also by a self-exalting spirit, estranged from the divine life) is closely akin; so too the "earthly." "Devilish," or "demon-like"; "led by an evil spirit," is the awful character of such a one, in its worst type (Jas 3:15).
receiveth not—though they are offered to him, and are "worthy of being received by all men" (1Ti 1:15).
they are foolishness unto him—whereas he seeks "wisdom" (1Co 1:22).
neither can he—Not only does he not, but he cannot know them, and therefore has no wish to "receive" them (Ro 8:7).
But he that is spiritual judgeth all things, yet he himself is judged of no man.
15. He that is spiritual—literally, "the spiritual (man)." In 1Co 2:14, it is "A [not 'the,' as English Version] natural man." The spiritual is the man distinguished above his fellow men, as he in whom the Spirit rules. In the unregenerate, the spirit which ought to be the organ of the Holy Spirit (and which is so in the regenerate), is overridden by the animal soul, and is in abeyance, so that such a one is never called "spiritual."
judgeth all things—and persons, by their true standard (compare 1Co 6:2-4; 1Jo 4:1), in so far as he is spiritual. "Discerneth … is discerned," would better accord with the translation of the same Greek (1Co 2:14). Otherwise for "discerned," in 1Co 2:14, translate, "judged of," to accord with the translation, "judgeth … is judged" in this fifteenth verse. He has a practical insight into the verities of the Gospel, though he is not infallible on all theoretical points. If an individual may have the Spirit without being infallible, why may not the Church have the Spirit, and yet not be infallible (a refutation of the plea of Rome for the Church's infallibility, from Mt 28:20; Joh 16:13)? As the believer and the Church have the Spirit, and are yet not therefore impeccable, so he and the Church have the Spirit, and yet are not infallible or impeccable. He and the Church are both infallible and impeccable, only in proportion to the degree in which they are led by the Spirit. The Spirit leads into all truth and holiness; but His influence on believers and on the Church is as yet partial. Jesus alone, who had the Spirit without measure (Joh 3:34), is both infallible and impeccable. Scripture, because it was written by men, who while writing were infallibly inspired, is unmixed truth (Pr 28:5; 1Jo 2:27).
For who hath known the mind of the Lord, that he may instruct him? But we have the mind of Christ.
16. For—proof of 1Co 2:15, that the spiritual man "is judged of no man." In order to judge the spiritual man, the ordinary man must "know the mind of the Lord." But "who of ordinary men knows" that?
that he may instruct him—that is, so as to be able to set Him right as His counsellor (quoted from Isa 40:13, 14). So the Septuagint translates the Greek verb, which means to "prove," in Ac 9:22. Natural men who judge spiritual men, living according to the mind of God ("We have the mind of Christ"), are virtually wishing to instruct God, and bring Him to another mind, as counsellors setting to right their king.
we have the mind of Christ—in our degree of capability to apprehend it. Isa 40:13, 14 refers to Jehovah: therefore, as it is applied here to Christ, He is Jehovah.